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Professional courtesy, part 2: thugs on patrol

Here’s what I said back in April about what professional courtesy means when it comes to law enforcers:

The term professional courtesy comes from the traditions of medicine: many doctors will not charge money when they treat another doctor’s immediate family. When doctors talk about professional courtesy they are talking about a very old system of mutual aid in which one doctor agrees to do a favor for another, at her own expense, for the sake of collegiality, out of concern for professional ethics (to offer doctors an alternative to having their own family as patients), and because she can count on getting similar services in return should she ever need them.

But when the Gangsters in Blue start talking about professional courtesy, they’re talking about something quite different: a favor done for a fellow gang member at no personal expense, with the bill sent to unwilling taxpayers who must pick up the tab for the roads and parking; and a favor done in order insulate the gangsters and their immediate family from any kind of ethical accountability to the unwilling victims that they sanctimoniously insist on serving and protecting. Professional courtesy in medicine means reciprocity in co-operative mutual aid in healing sick people; professional courtesy in government policing means reciprocity in a conspiracy to make sure that any cop can do just about anything she wants by way of free-riding, disruptive, dangerous or criminal treatment of innocent third parties, with complete impunity, and the rest of us will get the bill for it and a fuck you, civilian if we don’t like it.

It turns out that the Virginia State Patrol is stretched thin right now: money is tight because of the state’s economic and budgetary troubles, and — as a result — they’ve delayed a lot of new hiring and they’re having trouble getting up enough active cops for adding special agents to the Joint Terrorism Task forces, creating a Homeland Security Division and dedicating more troopers to investigate illegal firearms purchases at gun shows. (Well, good. Three cheers for the state’s budgetary troubles, if they make for a financial roadblock against ridiculous gun grabs and Stasi statism.) But now check out what the coppers at Officer.com have to say about the Virginia State Patrol in the comments:

Posted by JJS (09/24/08 – 10:41 AM)

VSP has a bad reputation for writing tickets to other officers.

How dare they? Cops deserve to be treated more considerately than everybody else when they are stopped by other cops.

Posted by People Are Sheep [sic!] in Maryland (09/24/08 – 11:19 AM)

VSP Anti-Courtesy

For years, I have heard rumors about VSP stopping and citing police officers both on and off duty. Whatever the circumstance, it is not in the professional interest (and sometimes legal interest) for ANY police officer/trooper to stop (or attempt to stop) any on duty marked police vehicle. In some states, it’s unlawful to do so … and in some states, an arrest warrant or state’s attorney consultation is required BEFORE a stop is made and charges are cited. Off duty officers/troopers should use common sense when driving. Period. On the same token, on duty officers/troopers should use common sense and professional courtesy when it appropriate. . . .

In nearly two decades as a police officer, I have stopped many, many off duty police officers for traffic violations. During those times, I have issued no tickets and made no arrests. There are alternatives to citing and arresting off duty cops: verbal warning, calling their supervisor or just assisting the officer reach their destination safely. All options are, of course, dependent upon the violation at hand.

Remember, we are all that we have out there on the street … each other. The legendary conversation between an overzealous on duty officer and the off duty officer during a traffic stop bears truth: After signing the ticket, the off duty officer says, Just remember, I could be your closest backup out here.

In other words, this sanctimonious server and protector has spent the past two decades completely abdicating his supposed professional responsibilities when they involved holding a fellow cop accountable for endangering the safety of the people he and they are supposedly hired to protect. Because he thinks it’s important never to forget that some day he may need his gang brothers to get his back.

Posted by Harry in District of Columbia (09/24/08 – 04:09 PM)

VSP Anti-Courtesy an understatement

I can in contact with a vehicle that struck a fix object at 21st and Washington Circle NW Washington, D.C. The vehicle was an unmarked VSP vehicle occuppied by 4 VSP officer. All of them had been drinking. knowing what there fate would be if I’d taken a report I had them make a call and two other off duty VSP officer responded to my location, sober, and I allow all to leave. I figured it was up to them to explain to there supervisor the damage to the unmarked cruiser. Now if they had struck another vehicle civilian driver or pedestrian there would have been a different outcome.

Shortly after that I was driving southbound on Rt.29 in Nelson County, VA at 0300hrs and was stopped by a VSP for doing 67 in a 55. I never identified myself as a police officer, probably because I had FOP licence plate, and he never inquiried, and wrote me a speeding ticket. He never spoke a word.

A month later I stoped a civilain vehicle driven by a off duty VSP trooper for a traffic violation, he immediately produced ID and I told him to that a nice day.

VSP is really short on professional courtesy.

A Texas Highway Patrol enforcer defends the honor of his crew from the allegations of a Houston cop:

Posted by TXTroop in TEXAS (09/25/08 – 11:36 AM)

VA & TX

Let me first start off by saying that RICK G in Houston is an idiot. We DO NOT get uniformed officers out of their vehicles to stand on the side of the road. If this happens in Houston it is because Houston PD officers have a habit of holding their badges out the window when they are being stopped. Very UNPROFESSIONAL. As far as our stupid cowboy hats go, even the hood is affraid of the HATS. Now that the idiots comments have been addressed, if VA Troopers are writing other officers, on or off duty shame on them! The only reason any state has a shortage of Troops is PAY. Troopers all over the Nation are reveered as the best officers in their state, they should be paid as such. Sounds like VA needs to up their pay and implement the DONT PUT COPS ON PAPER – TICKETS OR WARNING plan!!!

TXCOP in the DFW area scratches their backs and expects them to scratch his:

Posted by TXCOP in DFW AREA, Texas (09/25/08 – 11:16 PM)

Wow sounds like Rick G. got really upset. Before I moved to Texas I was a LEO in Baltimore City, Md. The only contact I had with VSP was being stopped for speeding something like 80 in 60 or something its been a few years now. But the trooper (an older older officer) made me for a cop and after showing my ID he asked me to slow down and to cut him and his friends a break next time they visit the city for a Ravens or orioles game. Now on that same trip (enroute to visit family in Texas) I was stopped about 40 miles into Texas from arkansas on I 30 by a Texas State Trooper he pulled up next to me hit the alley light and motioned to me so of course I waved at him and continued driving after a minute he motioned again so i figured he wanted me stopped so I shook my head and slowed down he then proceeded to hit the red lights and stop me and the guy in front of me. So here I am the officer stopped between both of us he came to me first and I told him I’m a Leo and have a gun so that he would not be surprised. He asked me to stay with him while he finished the other stop and then he would let me be on my way. He wrote the other guy a citation came back wrote me a warning to get his stat and then I gave him a Uniform patch and was gone.

From a Virginia sheriff’s deputy:

Posted by VA Deputy (09/26/08 – 04:58 AM)

As for professional courtesey… I have worked for a PD and a S.O. and for all you out of town guys, not everyone in VA is into writing LEO’s… professional courtesey ia alive and well in the local jurisdictions… Too many people on the outside are trying to hang us on a daily basis for no reason, we shouldn’t be hanging ourselves. As long as you don’t come out of your vehicle swinging at me, you got a pass here… Stay Safe.

That’s As long as you don’t come out of your vehicle swinging at me and you wear the same gang colors I do, of course. Those passes are not for mere civilians.

I should say that when I refer to cops as a street gang or Gangsters in Blue or what have you, I’m not indulging in metaphor. I don’t mean that cops act kinda like gangsters (as if this were just a matter of personal vices or institutional failures); I mean that they are gangsters — that is the policing system operating successfully according to its normal function — that they are the organized hired muscle of the State, and that the outfit operates just like any other street gang in terms of their commitments, their attitudes, their practices, and their idea of professional ethics. And if you wonder why, it may help to ask yourself what kind of person, and what kind of outfit, you’d need to have for this kind of talk, and this notion of professional courtesy, to make any kind of sense.

Just shut the fuck up

I don’t mean to be rude. But this issue is important.

There are lots of reasons to despise Alexander Hamilton — given his record as a Caesarian centralizer, rampaging war-luster, and the spiritual and political father of U.S. state capitalism. There are also lots of cases where Thomas Jefferson was better than Hamilton on things that Hamilton was rotten on. This should be taken into account if you are ever trying to rank U.S. revolutionaries according to their libertarian merits. But the reverse is also true, and the issues that Jefferson was rotten on — like, oh, slavery — were not small potatoes or minor personal foibles. And while I think that Will Wilkinson is making several interrelated mistakes, among them misrepresenting and unfairly minimizing the case against Hamilton, when he says…

If you think central banks are a bigger issue for liberty than human enslavement, trade, or the growth of capitalism then your priorities are screwed.

— Will Wilkinson (2008-04-07), comments on ABJ @ The Fly Bottle

… what I would like to stress, at the moment, is that if you ever, ever find yourself thinking that it might possibly be appropriate to reply to a remark like that by saying something like this:

Central banking is one of the worst forms of human enslavement, actually. You should try going out more often, WW, and read some Hoppe and DiLorenzo for good measure.

— Alberto Dietz (2008-04-09), comments on ABJ @ The Fly Bottle

Then you need to stop. Right there. And just–well, you know the rest.

Thomas Jefferson wrote a couple of documents that I admire very much. One of them I consider to be one of the finest and most important political documents written in the history of the world. But Jefferson was a man, not just the signature on a series of essays, and he also did many other things in his life. He was an overt and at times obsessive white supremacist. He was a rapist. He was a posturing hypocrite. He was President of the United States. He was himself a war-monger, who launched the United States’ first overseas war within months of his first inauguration. Most of all, he was a active slaver, a lifelong perpetrator of real, not metaphorical, chattel slavery. He violently held hundreds of his fellow human beings in captivity throughout their lives and throughout his, with the usual tools of chains and hounds and lashes. He maintained himself in an utterly idle life as a landed lord of the Virginia gentry by forcing his captives to work for his own profit, and living off of the immense wealth of things that they built and grew by the sweat of their own brows and the blood of their own backs. He had no conceivable right to live this life of man-stealing, imprisonment, robbery and torture, and no justification for it other than racist contempt for his victims and the absolute, violent power that he (with the aid of his fellow whites) held over the life and limb of hundreds of victims. He knew that his own words in the Declaration of Independence condemned his own actions towards his slaves, who were by right his equals, beyond appeal, but he went on enslaving them anyway for the rest of his life and would not even make any provisions in his will to set them free when he finally died. He was a hereditary tyrant, claiming, based solely on his descent, the right to go on perpetrating a reign of terror over his prison-camp plantation more hideous and invasive than anything ever contemplated by the most absolutist Bourbon or Bonaparte. Not because he was in any way extraordinary or at all harsher than the average, compared to other white slavocrats, in how he treated his slaves–but rather because that kind of terror and violence is part and parcel of what forcing hundreds of people into chattel slavery means. As insidious and destructive as government-centralized banking and the money monopoly may be — and I am the last person to deny that — it is callous, counter-historical, inhuman bullshit to try and pass it off as one of the worst forms of human enslavement in comparison to American chattel slavery. It’s bullshit that needs to stop.

A side note. When trying to explain Jefferson’s view on slavery, one thing that a lot of people seem to take as a point in his favor is his opposition to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In 1807, Jefferson in fact signed a bill banning the trans-Atlantic slave trade (which could not take effect until 1808 because the U.S. Constitution only granted Congress the power to regulate the international slave trade 20 years after its ratification). It comes up a couple of different times in the same comments thread.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually speak in Jefferson’s favor. Jefferson, like many other white Virginian slave-camp commandants, was indeed for banning the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which he, like many other white Virginian slavers, sometimes fiercely denounced as infamous and inhumanly cruel. They were right about that part, and they were right that the trans-Atlantic slave trade ought to have been banned, but their primary reasons for wanting it banned were quite different from what people reading them today often conclude. If, after all, they were actually against the slave trade for humanitarian reasons, then they certainly ought to have the same problems with the internal slave trade in the United States, and the exportation of slaves out of the United States (for example, down to the death-plantations of the Caribbean). Those parts of the slave trade also involved the hellish passage of hundreds of slaves, shackled below decks, in sea voyages from New England or the upper South to the far-away places they were sold down to. But you’ll find little of that from Jefferson or his fellow white Virginian slavers, and the reason is that they profited from the internal slave trade. By the late 18th and early 19th century, Virginia was in the process of a long decline in agricultural productivity, but the landed lords held on to their stream of pirated wealth — by becoming the leading exporter of slaves to other, more productive plantations, down in the Deep South and in the Caribbean. Jefferson’s opposition to the slave trade, like that of many of his fellow Virginia slavers, was not nascent abolitionism. It was pure protectionism, designed to prop up the Virginian slave-traders’ profits while they retained the same absolute, violent power over their slaves at home.

Hope this helps.

Further reading:

Well thank God #7: Sagging and the new sumptuary laws

A couple years ago, the Virginia state legislature took bold action against a grave and gathering threat to democracy, freedom, and our way of life:

The House of Delegates voted 60 to 34 Tuesday to impose a $50 fine on anyone found wearing pants low enough that a substantial portion of undergarments is showing. Note the vote: It wasn’t even close.

About those pants: Lots of kids these days are conducting a large-scale experiment to see if trousers can defy gravity. This results in the widespread public exposure of underpants.

This greatly offends Del. Algie Howell Jr., a Democrat from Norfolk and author of the no-low-pants bill, which still faces a vote in the generally more skeptical Senate. People that live in my neighborhood don’t want to have to see undergarments, Howell told me. It’s not about individual rights; it’s about values. I own a group home; we take in kids who’ve been in trouble. Most of the men who come in in shackles and handcuffs are trying to hold up their pants. The way you dress does have something to do with how you behave.

Since the state has an interest in fighting unemployment and crime, Howell figures the state is right to ban a practice that he says makes young people less attractive as employees and more likely to turn to crime.

— Marc Fisher, Washington Post (2005-02-10): Droopy Drawers Drive Va. House To Distraction

Now here’s the latest from Delcambre, Louisiana:

The Delcambre Board of Aldermen outlawed indecent exposure in the form of sagging pants Monday, but not before several residents voiced their objections.

The board voted unanimously to make it illegal for anyone to wear clothing that exposes them or reveals their underwear in public.

The ordinance states, It shall be unlawful for any person in any public place or in view of the public to be found in a state of nudity, or partial nudity, or in dress not becoming to his or her sex, or in any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments, or be guilty of any indecent or lewd behavior.

It is punishable by up to a $500 fine or up to six months in jail, or both.

Delcambre Police Chief James Broussard said violators can be arrested if officers spot them while on patrol, or if another resident files a complaint.

— Jeff Moore, The Daily Iberian (2007-06-12): Sagging bagged by town

Radley Balko informs us that there is a movement afoot amongst the Real Americans, in both Red states and Blue:

Moreover, civic organizers in Atlanta, Detroit, Nashville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala., are planning antisagging rallies, says Pastor Dianne Robinson of Jacksonville, Fla., who last week handed out 78 donated belts at a belt rally. This sagging of the pants is to me a defiant act, and it has all kinds of implications, says Ms. Robinson, who is black. If you can’t get up in the morning and pull your pants up, that says a lot about you, even if I don’t know anything about you.

–quoted by Radley Balko, The Agitator (2007-07-20): Droopy Drawers Banners See Cracks in Opposition

Now that we already have a professional cadre of bureaucrats running behind us all, yelling You’ll put an eye out with that! and Don’t drink that, it’ll stunt your growth!, how could our statesmen and civic organizers possibly refuse their duty to set the Law running around after people wearing dress not becoming to his or her sex [sic!] and black kids committing defiant acts, screaming You’re not going out like that, are you?! and Don’t you take that attitude with me, young man!

Independence Day

Besides explosions and strong drink, nationalist nostalgia is probably the most popular way to celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. It is, we are told, a day to sing national hymns, pledge our allegiance, have a parade, and fly the military colors from every available flagpole. We are told that it is, above all, a day sanctified for celebrating the birth of a new nation.

No it isn’t.

July 4th is the anniversary of the ignominious death of a tyranny, not the birth of a new government. On July 4th, 1776, there was no such thing as the United States of America. The regime under which we live today was not proclaimed until almost a decade later, on September 17, 1787. What was proclaimed on July 4th was not the establishment of a new government, but the dissolution of all political allegiance to the old one. All for the best: a transfer of power from London to Washington is no more worthy of celebration than any other coup d’etat. What is worth celebrating is this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it ?. [W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

— Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776

That is, the revolutionary doctrine that we all, each of us, are the equal of every puffed-up prince and President, that as such you, personally, have every right to refuse the arbitrary orders of tyrants, to ignore their sanctimonious claims of sovereignty, to sever all political connections if you want, and to defend yourself from any usurper who would try to rule you without your consent.

The logical conclusion of the radical equality proclaimed by the Declaration is not, however, what Jefferson or any of the other quasi-revolutionists thought it was. It is not home rule, and it is not republican government. It is not majoritarian democracy or the elective kingship that passes for the Presidency today. It is not democratic government or limited government; it is not any kind of government at all. If you, personally, are equal in rightful authority to your would-be rulers, and so have every right to tell them where they can go promulgate their law; if you, personally, have every right to refuse their demands and nullify their authority over you, at your discretion; if you have every right to withdraw your allegiance, and every right to defend yourself if they should come after you; then the logical conclusion is anarchy. The throne of the Constitution, or of the Majority, is no more dignified or sacred than the old thrones of the Czars and Sultans. Let’s not bow and scrape before them.

Today is not a day for nationalist bromides, or for government and its loyalists. It’s a day for radicals and revolutionaries. It’s a day to proclaim independence; it’s also a day to remember that the American Revolution, if it was worth anything, is far from over. We still have a long way to go. Here is how Frederick Douglass, a refugee from Southern slavery who became one of the United States’ most celebrated orators, put it back in July of 1852:

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth! To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery–the great sin and shame of America! I will not equivocate; I will not excuse; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgement is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is a moral, intellectual and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, there will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively, and positively, negatively, and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and lo offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength, than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is past.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy–a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

— Frederick Douglass (1852): What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

To which I can add only: boy, thank goodness that’s all over with.

Happy Independence Day. Let’s turn off the Lee Greenwood and take down that damned flag: it’s time to celebrate the day under a new banner. One that reads:

Anarchism is the radical notion that other people are not your property.

And:

NO UNION WITH WARMONGERS, POLITICALLY OR SPIRITUALLY.

More on the Fourth of July:

Related:

Over My Shoulder #20: Damon W. Root (2006), review of David W. Southern’s The Progressive Era and Race

You know the rules; here’s the quote. I’ve mentioned before some of the reasons that I refuse to call myself a Progressive, and why I loathe the current vogue for the term on the Left. I alluded to some of the historical reasons for it but didn’t actually spell the details out at the time. Fortunately, while I was riding to work on the bus a couple days ago I found out that a book review from this month’s issue of Reason said just what I wanted to say, at least as far as the topic of race is concerned. (There are some analogous points to be made about the experiences of women, workers, immigrants, and psychiatric patients during the same dark, violent era. But the book under review deals specifically with the relationship between the Progressive movement and the triumph of Jim Crow in its most brutal incarnation.) So, thanks to Damon W. Root and his review of David W. Southern’s The Progressive Era and Race, here’s a good precis of how I learned to start worrying and loathe Progressivism:

The Progressive movement swept America from roughly the early 1890s through the early 1920s, producing a broad popular consensus that government should be the primary agent of social change. To that end, legions of idealistic young crusaders, operating at the local, state, and federal levels, seized and wielded sweeping new powers and enacted a mountain of new legislation, including minimum wage and maximum hour laws, antitrust statutes, restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol, appropriations for hundreds of miles of roads and highways, assistance to new immigrants and the poor, women’s suffrage, and electoral reform, among much else.

Today many on the liberal left would like to revive that movement and its aura of social justice. Journalist Bill Moyers, speaking at a conference sponsored by the left-wing Campaign for America’s Future, described Progressivism as one of the country’s great traditions. Progressives, he told the crowd, exalted and extended the original American Revolution. They spelled out new terms of partnership between the people and their rulers. And they kindled a flame that lit some of the most prosperous decades in modern history.

Yet the Progressive Era was also a time of vicious, state-sponsored racism. In fact, from the standpoint of African-American history, the Progressive Era qualifies as arguably the single worst period since Emancipation. The wholesale disfranchisement of Southern black voters occurred during these years, as did the rise and triumph of Jim Crow. Furthermore, as the Westminster College historian David W. Southern notes in his recent book, The Progressive Era and Race: Reform and Reaction, 1900??1917, the very worst of it–disfranchisement, segregation, race baiting, lynching–went hand-in-hand with the most advanced forms of southern progressivism. Racism was the norm, not the exception, among the very crusaders romanticized by today’s activist left.

At the heart of Southern’s flawed but useful study is a deceptively simple question: How did reformers infused with lofty ideals embrace such abominable bigotry? His answer begins with the race-based pseudoscience that dominated educated opinion at the turn of the 20th century. At college, Southern notes, budding progressives not only read exposés of capitalistic barons and attacks on laissez-faire economics by muckraking journalists, they also read racist tracts that drew on the latest anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology, eugenics, and medical science.

Popular titles included Charles Carroll’s The Negro a Beast (1900) and R.W. Shufeldt’s The Negro, a Menace to American Civilization (1907). One bestseller, Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race (1916), discussed the concept of race suicide, the theory that inferior races were out-breeding their betters. President Theodore Roosevelt was one of many Progressives captivated by this notion: He opposed voting rights for African-American men, which were guaranteed by the 15th amendment, on the grounds that the black race was still in its adolescence.

Such thinking, which emphasized expert opinion and advocated sweeping governmental power, fit perfectly within the Progressive worldview, which favored a large, active government that engaged in technocratic, paternalistic planning. As for reconciling white supremacy with egalitarian democracy, keep in mind that when a racist Progressive championed the working man, the common man, or the people, he typically prefixed the silent adjective white.

For a good illustration, consider Carter Glass of Virginia. Glass was a Progressive state and U.S. senator and, as chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency, one of the major architects of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of his state’s massive effort to disfranchise black voters. Discrimination! Why that is exactly what we propose, he declared to one journalist. To remove every negro voter who can be gotten rid of, legally, without materially impairing the numerical strength of the white electorate.

Then there was political scientist John R. Commons, an adviser to the Progressive Wisconsin governor and senator Robert M. LaFollette and a member of Theodore Roosevelt’s Immigration Commission. Commons, the author of Races and Immigrants in America (1907), criticized immigration on both protectionist grounds (he believed immigrants depressed wages and weakened labor unions) and racist ones (he wrote that the so-called tropical races were indolent and fickle).

Woodrow Wilson, whose Progressive presidential legacy includes the Federal Reserve System, a federal loan program for farmers, and an eight-hour workday for railroad employees, segregated the federal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. I have recently spent several days in Washington, the black leader Booker T. Washington wrote during Wilson’s first term, and I have never seen the colored people so discouraged and bitter as they are at the present time.

Perhaps the most notorious figure of the era was Benjamin Pitchfork Tillman, a leading Southern Progressive and inveterate white supremacist. As senator from South Carolina from 1895 to 1918, Tillman stumped for Free Silver, the economic panacea of the agrarian populist (and future secretary of state) William Jennings Bryan, whom Tillman repeatedly supported for president. Pitchfork Tillman favored such Progressive staples as antitrust laws, railroad regulations, and public education, but felt the latter was fit only for whites. When you educate a negro, he brayed, you educate a candidate for the penitentiary or spoil a good field hand.

— Damon W. Root, Reason (May 2006): When Bigots Become Reformers: The Progressive Era’s shameful record on race, pp. 60–61.

As Southern thoroughly documents, Root notes a bit further down, these examples just begin to scratch the surface. Progressivism was infested with the most repugnant strains of racism. That was no accident. And it wasn’t just some minor blight on a basically good movement. It was part and parcel of Progressivism, its pseudodemocratic anti-radicalism, its sustained assault on autonomous, state-free mutual aid assocations and labor unions, its contemptuous pity for the downtrodden, and its embrace of the government-backed Expert as the natural person to solve their problems for them (whether they liked it or not). It’s long past time for Progressivism to be left in the dustbin of history, for we as a society, and the left as a movement, to progress beyond that kind of adolescent power trip to a theory and practice based on respect, mutuality, solidarity, and freedom. Dump the bosses of your back.

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